Monday, 21 January 2013

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it...

When I was a (mature!) student I used to work in Nandos restaurant. As a people watcher I found the job endlessly fascinating and was always particularly interested in the difference between the way that Europeans eat compared to the Brits. I wondered then, as now, if the reason for the growing obesity rates in the UK has more to do with our approach to food than what we eat?

I used to watch Italian and Spanish families and groups coming in for dinner. They would usually come in a group. There would be starters ordered to share, with bottles of wine and big jugs of water. The whole group chatting with each other- including the children in their conversations. Then the main course, always whole chicken platters, large salads, a plate of rolls, garlic bread and a bowl of rice/chips. Plenty of food, not all of it healthy either. But enjoyed, at a slower pace, sips of wine, chatter, a bite of chicken, a little more salad. This feast would last over an hour, sometimes over two hours. The children would eat everything with little fuss. Salad included. Then dessert, not usually the decadent huge desserts we served but the little pastries designed to go with coffee. Ice cream for the minis. Double expresso for Dad. There was never a children's colouring pack (you know, the free ones designed to keep children quiet during the 'family' meal).

Then the Brits, usually in smaller groups. Everyone would order a separate plated meal, no sharing! Perhaps wine or lagers, usually fizzy soft drinks which as they are refillable often took a beating from the kids :-) The children would colour in, bored sometimes, the adults chat amongst themselves- all eagerly awaiting their food. When food arrived it would be eaten quickly with no ceremony or saviour. The kiddies would eat their plain chicken and chips with ketchup. No salad offered or eaten as they don't like salad. Plates cleared quickly and large desserts ordered. With full stomachs the family would bid a has try retreat home to slip into more comfy clothes.

You see the difference? I concluded that making more of a ceremony of food actually meant people are less, ate a wider variety of foods, drunk more water and in all made more of an occasion of eating out. So since then, I always try to serve some meals in bowls or sharing platters at the table with a mix of healthy and not so healthy. We take our time, open a bottle of wine, have water on the table-it fills you up too, chat as a family, chill and eat SLOWLY. Those dinners are always our favourite, regardless of what we have eaten. Interestingly we also eat less because the focus isn't on clearing the plate. Perhaps if us Brits addressed the culture of the way we eat rather than what we eat we might be a little leaner and closer. Make family dinners just that, family time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, It is Jen from the Mad House. Thank you for the comment. I do agree with you. I try to eat at the table with my boys every night and we take great delight in sharing food when we go out. It is out family time

    Oh and you might want to take capture off as you will get more comments too!